Praise for Biography of a Bird Dog
Garry Wallace breaks a lot of rules with
his writing, but by doing so, actually turns a dog’s
biography into a warm and gripping story. He anthropormorphizes
in Biography of a Bird Dog to be sure, with a style
that is clearly whimsical. But underneath the Biography,
is also a story of life in the Northern Rockies, for
man and beast alike. The story is written in the literary
tradition of a Wallace Stegner book. Jay F. Kirkpatrick.
Ph.D., Director of The Science and Conservation Center
and author of Into the Wind.
by Retriever Journal editor-at-large E. Donnall Thomas
Since Labrador retrievers are the most
popular canine breed in America, their popularity
as book subjects should come as no surprise. The breed’s
history has been well documented and instructional
books telling how to train them abound. Labs figure
prominently in numerous collections of fireside outdoor
reading material and a number of our best sporting
photographers have produced coffee table books celebrating
their utility in the field and popularity in the home.
Considered in this context, it’s hard to imagine
anyone inventing an entirely different approach to
writing about Labs.
But darned if Garry Wallace hasn’t
done it. A college biology instructor in Wyoming,
Wallace’s scientific background is evident throughout
Biography of a Bird Dog, in which he records with
Proustian attention to detail the first half year
in the life of Valley Girl, his female black Lab.
An admittedly inexperienced trainer, Wallace wisely
makes no effort to pose as an expert. He is learning
right along with the dog and to his credit he acknowledges
and records his mistakes honestly so that others might
learn from them. Readers in search of nothing more
complex than a roadmap to help them guide their pup
from the whelping box to the field trial winner’s
circle should look elsewhere, and Wallace is considerate
enough to provide a useful bibliography as a guide
in that direction.
Valley Girl’s story was never
intended to be instructional. Instead, the text is
a celebration: of the unique personality that defines
every Labrador retriever, the enduring relationships
that arise between hunting dogs and their handlers,
and the special ambience of the wild Wyoming countryside
Wallace and VG call home. The narrative reflects moments
of exuberance and moments of doubt, tears and triumphs
alike. Anyone who has ever scratched a Lab’s
ears at the end of a long, trying day will understand
and appreciate the care and insight Garry Wallace
has brought to bear upon this heartfelt project.
E. Donnall Thomas Jr.